Pope Francis is one of the most influential people in the world today. His popularity grew immensely after his visit to the United States in 2015, piquing everyone’s interest in the current ‘People’s Pope’. He changed people’s image of a Pope, when he refused to judge homosexuality and when he washed the feet of Aid victims. Much remains unknown about Pope Francis, however, so we have come up with 20 interesting facts about the 266th Pope.
1. Birth and Family
Pope Francis was born to Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Regina María Sívori on December 17, 1936. He is originally from Buenos Aires. His parents were both immigrants from Italy, and they had five children including Francis. His parents came from a humble background, his father being an accountant and his mother a homemaker.
2. He Didn’t Have His Mother’s Blessing To Be A Priest
Despite being one of the biggest figures of the Catholic Church today, you will be surprised to know that his mother wasn’t pleased with Francis deciding to become a priest. She spent a lot of years dissuading him from priesthood but he persisted and followed his heart.
3. He Is Multilingual
Francis is famous for being extremely multilingual. He can speak Spanish, Italian and Latin with fluency, and can also understand Portuguese, French, English, Ukranian and German. He has given speeches in many languages, reaching out to many diverse lingual groups.
4. He Used To Be A Chemical Technician
Before joining the seminary and beginning his religious vocation, Pope Francis used to be a chemical technician. He also has a degree in chemical technology. He was faced with criticism when he issued his encyclical about the environment, with many saying he shouldn’t interfere with science and stick to religion. However, his knowledge of science was known by many and managed to quieten the haters.
5. He Also Worked As A Bouncer
You wouldn’t want to mess with this Pope! Before his papacy, He mentioned in an interview once that he used to work as a bouncer at a bar in Buenos Aires. He took up the job to help pay for his studies.
6. He Had A Girlfriend Before His Papacy
Francis had admitted in the same interview that he had a girlfriend before he joined the seminary. It was one of a group of friends that he used to go dancing with. ‘But then I discovered my religious vocation’ he adds.
7. He Has Written A Book On Interfaith Outreach
Pope Francis is admired for reaching out to other faiths other than Christianity, but not many know that he has been doing this for a long time. He co-wrote a book with Rabbi Abraham Skorka called ‘Sobre el Cielo y la Tierra’ (On Heaven and Earth) which talks about interfaith dialogue. Pope Francis and Rabbi Skorka both held the papal delegation in May 2014, which for the first time included members of other faiths including Argentinean Muslim leader Omar Abboud.
8. Ever Heard of Popemojis?
In his honor, Swyft Media came up with emojis for Pope Francis, comically titled Popemojis. These emojis help Catholics to celebrate their life by using these emoticons of hope and joy, related to Pope Francis.
9. He Expects To Be Pope For Only Four-Five Years
Pope Francis once told that he won’t be the Pope for long, only for a period of four-five years. He is 78 years old and said that his health problems may induce him to leave the post even within two or three years. The Pope is often required to travel and has a full-day itinerary from 4:30 am every day. Francis had cancelled many public appearances in 2014, which is an indicator of the health problems that he faces from the post.
10. He’s Had Health Problems in his Youth
Francis had reportedly undergone a surgery to have one lung removed at the age of 21. He was suffering from life-threatening pneumonia and had three cysts. Despite having only one functioning lung, he is one of the most active people alive!
11. He Loves To Tango!
Pope Francis once admitted that in his youth, he used to love to dance, and had a special place in his heart for the tango. His love for tango led to a performance of thousands of tango dancers on the St Peter’s Square, in honor of his 78th birthday.
12. He Was Also A Teacher
Pope Francis, before his papacy, used to teach in Argentina. He has taught literature, theology, psychology and philosophy in many high schools.
13. He Was Accused Of Being Involved in the Dirty War
During Argentina’s Dirty War, two Jesuit priests were kidnapped and missing for five months. At the time, allegations crept up against Pope Francis, claiming he was involved in the kidnapping. When the priests were found, they accused Francis of doing nothing to free them. However, two days after he was elected as Pope, the two clarified their statements, saying they were not denounced by him and their kidnapping was not done at his initiative. Francis himself said to his biographers that he worked behind the scenes to free the two priests, and is said to be ‘very critical’ about the dictatorship in Argentina during the Dirty War.
14. He Rejected The Luxurious Papal Apartment
Pope Francis didn’t want to live in the typical luxurious apartment reserved for the Pope, instead, he opted for St. Martha’s House. He lives there among his fellow priests in a less formal environment. He has always rejected luxury, say sources, since even in his days as an archbishop, he cooked his own meals and also used public transportation, instead of being driven around in a limousine, with a private chauffeur.
15. He’s The First Non-European Pope In 1,000 Years
Since Gregory III, who was elected as pope in 731, he is the first Pope in 1,000 years who was born outside of Europe. He is also famous for being the first pope from South America.
16. He’s Taken On Many Controversial Issues
Since his papacy, Pope Francis has undertaken many bold and dangerous moves to prove that he’s not like any other Pope. He demoted and excommunicated the members of the clergy, who broke their vows of poverty. He also confronted the Mafia, saying they are excommunicated since they are not in communion with God. He also made the Vatican’s finances transparent.
17. He Is Fighting Hard To Combat Poverty
Pope Francis has made it his personal mission to eradicate poverty and has taken many measures to do so. He once was in the news for installing showers in the Vatican, which homeless people could use. He often provides goods for the homeless and celebrated his birthday by distributing sleeping bags to 400 homeless people. He also reportedly often visits the homeless at night.
18. He Is A Huge Soccer Fan
Pope Francis admitted to being a fan of soccer and publicly supports a traditional soccer team from his neighbourhood, San Lorenzo de Almagro Football club.
19. He Is A Legal Citizen of Three Countries
Pope Francis is legally a citizen of three countries- Argentina, Italy and the Vatican. He was born and raised in Argentina, has an Italian parentage and is a Vatican citizen since it is a sovereign entity, whose leader is the Pope.
2o. He Was the Person of the Year in 2013
Time Magazine honored Pope Francis with the title of the Person of the Year and featured him on the cover of the magazine in 2013. The title is given to a person who is extremely influential.
Pope Francis definitely has made his mark in Catholic history and is often portrayed in media as being very unique in his role as the Pope. Due to his wide popularity, he was ranked as the fourth most powerful person in the world by Forbes in 2014.